Aristotle’s Concept of Tragic Hero in his Poetics or Characteristics of a Tragic Hero


The action of tragedy is generally dominated by the hero or the heroine. A tragic hero of the Aristotelian description is a man who enjoy prosperity and renown, but he is found involved in misfortune and suffering out of some great flaw in his characters or a fatal error in his judgement, action or conduct. Aristotle instances Oedipus and other similar illustratious figures as the ideal specimen of the tragic hero, who despite their nobleness, are subjected to acquit suffering and misfortune.
The tragic hero, according to Aristotle, must have four characteristics. The first and the foremost thing is that he should be good and this goodness is ethical goodness. Goodness is essential to Aristotle’s tragic theory. A bad man does not enjoy our sympathy while a good man does. But a perfectly blameless character is not fitted to be a tragic hero because unmerited suffering does not rise pity and fear. Aristotle has pointed out that the blameless goodness is not dramatically interesting. Butcher, indifference of Aristotle, says, “Even where it (blameless goodness) has no lack of strong initiative, its impersonal order in the cause of right has not the same dramatic fascination as the spectacle of human weakness or passion for doing battle with the fate it has brought upon itself.”
Aristotle also insists that the tragic hero must be appropriate. The character should not be at variance with that of the class to which he belongs. The term “appropriate” has been interpreted by F. L. Lucus as ‘a person true to type’. By ‘appropriateness’, Aristotle presumably means the classification of human characters and these characters are mostly drawn from the epics and legends.
The third point to be considered in the tragic character is ‘likeness’. Aristotle says, “The third is to make them like.” But like what? Is it likeness to the ‘original’? It has been suggested that the characters of the heroes should be like the reality. If the characters are to be like the original, the original will obviously mean the characters as represented in history, legend and mythology. If the characters are to be ‘true to life’, they are accepted to be natural.
The fourth characteristic of the tragic hero is that there must be consistency. The characters must develop strictly according to certain principles. This consistency is based upon what Aristotle calls probability and necessity which means rationality.
All these characteristics mentioned above are applied to all the tragic heroes as well as all the tragic characters. The tragic hero may not be an embodiment of virtue and nevertheless, he must have an element of greatness. If he is a man of high estate, his fate normally affects the welfare of all the nation. He must enjoy greater reputation so that his misfortune may be regarded as natural calamity. This also evokes our sense of pity.
John Johns regrets that we have imported the tragic hero into Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’. True the word ‘hero’ does not occur, yet the idea of the protagonist or the central figure does appear. Heroic figures such as the Greeks and the Elizabethan could conceived are no more possible today. Oedipus or Hamlet seems absurd today and any attempt to create such a figure is likely to give rise to a mock heroic effect. Aristotle was right in his age, no doubt, but an old principle cannot be true for all times. A tragic hero remains ultimately a hero and does not degenerate into a villain though he is found even to sin against and deviate from the paths of morality.

Superiority of poetry over History and Philosophy

Superiority of poetry over history and philosophy:

In the promotion of virtue, both philosophy and history play their parts. Philosophy deals with its theoritical aspects and teaches virtue by precepts. History teaches practical virtue by drawing concrete examples from life. But poetry gives both practical and precepts examples. Philosophy, being based on abstractions, is “heard of utterance and mystery to be conceived.” It cannot be a proper guide for youth. On the other hand, the historian is tied to empirical facts that his example drags no necessary consequence. Poetry gives perfect pictures of virtue which are far more effective than the mere definitions of philosophy. It also gives imaginary examples which are more instructive than the real examples of history. The reward of virtue and the punishment of vice is more clearly shown in poetry than in history. Poetry is superior to philosophy in the sense that it has the power to move and to give incentive for virtuous action. It presents moral lessons in a very attractive manner. Things which in themselves are horrible as cruel battles, monsters are made delightful in poetic imitation. Poet is therefore the monarch of all knowledge. “For he doth(does) not only show the way but giveth(gives) so sweet a prospect into the way as will entice any man to enter into it.”

The poet does not begin with obscure definitions which load the memory with doubtfulness, “but he cometh(comes) to you with words set in delightful proportion, either accompanied with or prepared for the well-enchanting skill of music and with a tale for suit he cometh unto you, with a tale which holdeth(holds) children from play and old man from the chimney corner. And pretending no more, doth intend the winning of the mind from wickedness to virtue.”

Review of Robert Browning’s poem “The Last Ride Together”

the-last-ride-together-by-rbrowning-dr-nusrat-j-arshad-1-638One of Robert Browning’s finest dramatic monologues, ‘The Last Ride Together’ was published in the collection ‘Men and Women'(1855). In this poem, language, thought and mood are perfectly fused to bring out the central theme which deals with the superiority of life and love over everything else. Moreover, the poem is an elaboration of the belief that it is the attempt and the experience and not the ultimate achievement that distinguishes a person in life. The rejected lover, who is the speaker in this monologue, is not bitter at having been rejected. Rather, he attempts to sublimate his feelings with the ideal of love. He would like to transform his experience of riding with the woman he loves to an eternal moment, with the world around them dissolving into insignificance. What would normally be viewed as a failure in love is turned into moment of almost sublime happiness by the rejected lover for whom the immediate experience of the company of the woman he loves surpasses everything else. Here, a ‘defeat’ is turned into an elevating experience which celebrates the power of love. There is, however, a different viewpoint which suggests that this poem is actually Browning’s criticism of the romantic solution- the rejected lover rationalizes his failure and tries to live on in an illusory world.

Bibliography: Poems Old And New

Standard of English in India

Just a few years ago, English was spoken by just five to seven million people and the language consisted of dialects spoken by monolinguals. But today there are more non-native users than native users of English. English has now become the linguistic key for opening borders. Now it is considered as a global medium of communication. English has become a world language, spoken by almost 1.5 billion people in the world. English is nowadays the dominant or official language in over 60 countries.

It is quite remarkable that India holds the third rank of consisting most English-using population in the world after the USA and the UK. Literatures in English are nowadays recognized as part of the national literatures, and English is also recognized in the over-all language policy of the nation. The language has deeply penetrated in the society, which has, in its turn, resulted in several varieties of English in India. The development of those new varieties is connected with historical and social factors. The new Englishes have all their own contexts of function and uses. They have also, in their turn, affected the native varieties of English.

Indian English is used mainly by Indians for whom English is basically a non-native language. It is a minority language, but yet it has well-occupied the standard of a language of national affairs in India. But the noticeable part is that the spread of English across different cultures and languages has meant the diversification of English in India, which, in turn, raises questions about the standardization of English in India.

If we notice precisely upon the standard of English used in India then we will come across a diverse picture of it. Though English is not the native language of India still there has to be maintained a standard in the proper and balanced use of it. The standard of use of the English language varies from place to place and region to region in India. For instance, the English used in the North-Eastern region of the country apparently differs from the English that is used in the South-Indian part of the country. The foremost reason for this distinction can be assumed as the diversity of languages used in these regions and the influence of their mother tongue as we know that India is a multilingual country. Moreover, the accent of languages of both the regions differs very emphatically. These types of differences obviously degrade the standard of the English language.

To minimize such dissimilarities and degradation of the standard of the language, there must be maintained a proper and a uniformly acceptable standard. And obviously, this is to be maintained from the school level itself. The students are to be well-prepared to be able to compete in the world level. They are to be taught reasonably proper English. They must be provided with the knowledge about the role of English language in various developmental fields.

In India, there are various boards and government recognized authorities who have adopted different significant initiatives in order to standardize the English language among the non-native learners of the language. These authorities lay importance upon teaching the language only by people who have attained special qualifications that make them eligible to teach the English language. To maintain the own standard of the English language, it is certainly not important to teach English as merely a subject in the school level, but to teach it as a standard language is of more significance. Therefore, every board or concerned authorities should lay significance upon appointing teachers who have studied the English language as the subject of honours in graduation or the post-graduation level. This is certainly not the ultimate solution but yet it can be a useful initiative that can motivate the students well enough.

Kamala Das’s poem “An Introduction”-a review


Kamala Das is one of the prominent writers of India writing in English. She was born at Punnayurkulam, Kerala, in 1934. She was brought up in the warmth of a close-knit Kerala matrilineal society and she felt uprooted when she had to move to Kolkata with her father who was a salesman. At Kolkata, she attended a Catholic boarding school for some days but suddenly at a very young age she had to get married. In the poem ‘An Introduction’, we can clearly observe autobiographical and confessional elements that are a striking quality of Kamala Das’s poems.

In ‘An Introduction’ included in ‘Summer in Calcutta'(1965), autobiographical elements reveal a gender bias and the poet’s assertion in favour of living spontaneously in her own way. She was quite frequently advised by her friends and relatives not to write in English because English was not her mother tongue and her retort turns out to be a definition of language. Her English may be half-English and half-Indian and it may be queer and distorted, but it is her language when she uses it. It is as natural to her as crawing is to crows and roaring to the lion. Kamala Das’s arguments in favour of uring English make clear that there is obviously a need to adapt the language to serve the purpose of Indian writers in English. The use of the language need not be in the way that the British use it; English has to be acclimatized to the Indian condition. What Kamala Das calls queerness and distortions may be read as local idioms and cultural referents to which English is acclimatized. Elleke Boehmer finds Kamala Das echoing R.K. Narayan who called English ‘a swadeshi language’: ‘To her English represents a valid personal choice: “half English, half Indian,” the language with “its distortions, its queerness” is there for the taking.’

In her early youth the poet got no love when she asked for it and the woman in he was insulted in the name of love. In sheer disgust she began to ingnore her womanliness but society would not let her have her way of wearing clothes like a boy. She was suggested to perform the role of a traditional woman. She could be a girl, a wife, a cook or a housekeeper but she could not be herself and an individual. The poet feels that man-woman relationships cannot endure because all men want a woman and all women want love. The poet says that she cannot love without being deceived. She asserts herself, takes initiative and finds to her disappointment that she is let down. However, she does not admit defeat and asserts her determination to live spontaneously a life of intense passions and emotions. She wants to be herself and live her life.

Bibliography: Poems Old and New